Economic development group advances its cause

Presentations by CWEDA President Paul Dennis are set for November

Presentations by CWEDA President Paul Dennis are set for November

The expansion of Fastenal into the Port of Camas-Washougal Industrial Park is among the recent accomplishments of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

CWEDA President Paul Dennis said a Fastenal representative contacted him early on in their search for space in the local area.

“I provided them with a listing of available properties that fit their specifications,” Dennis said. “I did mention the port as a possibility. [Port Executive Director] Dave Ripp handled the negotiations.”

Fastenal is a wholesale/retail outlet of bolts, screws and nuts, as well as tools, equipment, plumbing, electrical and work safety supplies.

“Their closest one is on Mill Plain near Walmart,” Dennis said. “They needed another location to help meet the customer needs of the Camas-Washougal area.”

He said Monday there are approximately three dozen projects in various stages in the local area. That includes companies interested in expanding in 2014, as well as businesses who want to open locally in the immediate future.

“It runs the whole gamut — from service-oriented clients to manufacturing to quasi-retail,” Dennis said. “They have from a handful of employees to several hundred.”

He does not identify the companies until the transactions are complete.

Dennis said an Australia-based company is interested in leasing commercial space in downtown Camas. Logistics for the North American operations are currently occurring in a local home. The company is interested in expanding and hiring about 10 employees by April 2013.

Dennis has seen the preliminary plans of another company to expand operations by constructing a 42,000-square foot building, in Camas.

The expansion is expected to include more than 50 jobs in research, development and manufacturing.

“I was courting them six years ago,” said Dennis, a former mayor of Camas. “The first time, they selected another site outside Camas. Then they noticed the economy was not strong. They shelved their plans, rode out the recession and are now in a position to carry out their plans.

“They like our pro-business environment in Camas,” he added. “The three-way partnership [of CWEDA] says a lot to companies. It is a solid business environment with the port, Camas and Washougal.”

The port’s 2013 preliminary budget includes $100,000 for CWEDA, while Camas and Washougal also plan to continue supporting the association ($50,000 each).

The local area is competing with communities such as Hillsboro, Ore., and Bothell, Wash., to attract another company that is trying to raise a minimum of $10 million in venture capital. Dennis plans to go on a site tour with company representatives today.

As the owners of Amnesia Brewing prepare to open a tasting room, pub and brewhouse at 1834 Main St., in downtown Washougal in February 2013, others are interested in opening similar operations in the area.

Rail Side Brewing, Ltd., recently opened at 421 “C” St., Unit B, in Washougal. Washougal Brewing Co. LLC, is interested in purchasing property near Bi-Mart, 3003 Addy St., in Washougal.

Representatives of four other microbreweries are looking at the Camas-Washougal area.

“One had some difficulties finding a suitable site at a reasonable price,” Dennis said. “They are working on site location. They put a bid on a site.

“I got a phone call today from a new one, seeking [to locate in] Camas-Washougal,” he added. “There are a couple well known microbreweries looking at Camas-Washougal.”

Dennis said workforce development is a prominent issue for some of the company representatives he talks with.

“In this recession, companies are trying to find qualified help,” he said. “It has been very difficult.”

Resources for workforce development, for business expansion and retention, are available through the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council and the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

The next CWEDA board meeting will be held Thursday, at 1:30 p.m., in the second floor conference room, in Washougal Town Square, 1700 Main St., Washougal. Meetings are open to the public. For more information, call 607-9816 or email paul.dennis@cweda.org.